John Redwood: Where have all the new Conservatives voters gone – and why?

27 Jun

Sir John Redwood is MP for Wokingham, and is a former Secretary of State for Wales.

Some Conservatives are taking heart from the fact that in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton by-elections, some Tory voters stayed away rather than switching to Labour. After all, it should be easier to persuade abstainers back than to tell switchers they are wrong.

 

In Wakefield there was also an unusually high percentage voting for fringe parties and candidates. Independent candidates normally get less than 1 per cent of the vote, yet one received 7.6 per cent, the Yorkshire party polled 4.3 per cent, and Reform and Britain First together got 3 per cent – more than the Lib Dems. Many of these voters could be attracted to a stronger Conservative offer.

 

Understanding why Conservative voters abstained or voted for independent candidates is crucial for the Government. The idea of a Red Wall is unhelpful. Voters in former Labour seats voted Conservative in 2019 because they wanted something different to the Labour offer of a bigger public sector, a preoccupation with political correctness, and higher taxes, not because they wanted the same with Conservative branding.

 

They wanted more than Brexit in name only. They wanted a proud UK to use her new freedoms to promote prosperity and to place the UK back on the global stage without limitation from Brussels. They had concluded that sending more money to the local Council, spending more on new public buildings, and looking for the civil service to make everyone better off was not workable.

 

They disliked the EU model of closing down much UK productive capacity to favour continental imports.  They wanted a more enterprising, freer UK where government helped people get on. They wanted home ownership for the many, more opportunities for self-employment, to set up a small business, to gain shares and bonuses by working for a good private sector firm, to receive the education and training needed for promotion Labour’s collectivist ideas instead stifled individual ambition.

 

They expected Conservatives to lower taxes, promote more employment, and back business. They assumed that more money for schools and hospitals would come along restraint on overall spending and the growth of bureaucracy. They did not want more quangos lecturing us on what we could say, how we should live our lives, and whether we should buy a heat pump.

 

They looked forward to ending the large payments to the EU and wanted overseas aid removed from countries with nuclear weapons or space programmes. Many people refused a free smart meter and opposed more surveillance as examples of creeping government control.

 

So why do so many now feel they have not got what they asked for? They did not expect a Conservative Chancellor to authorise huge extra quantities of money printing last year in a way that was bound to be inflationary. They did not ask him to underwrite with their money another £150bn of bond buying by the Bank of England, paying very high prices for the bonds. They certainly did not vote for a hike in National Insurance, a tax rise expressly ruled out in the Conservative Manifesto. They did not want IR35 strengthened further to put off people working for themselves.

 

They hoped that VAT would come down or be taken off things like domestic heating once we were free of the EU and able to set our own tax rates. When the Ukraine war added a further nasty twist to the inflationary spiral they expected the Chancellor to cut the VAT rates on electricity, gas, diesel, and petrol, not to use it as an opportunity to tax us more on these necessities.

 

So what should the Government do now to prove it has understood these voters? The main changes have to come from the Treasury. Bad economic policy is damaging. The hit to real incomes is too hard, taxes are too high, and current policy threatens us with a recession. The government needs a convincing growth strategy.

 

That requires immediate action to cut VAT on fuels to ease the squeeze and cut the prices. It means binning the planned increase in Corporation tax and stopping the attack on home produced energy through the planned windfall tax. The Chancellor rightly wants an investment-led recovery. He will not get that if he serves up higher business taxes and a recession.

 

The Government should go all out to create the best environment for business investment and growth in the advanced world. Strong businesses will bring more and better-paid jobs. The UK, following years in the Single Market, depends far too much on imports for temperate food, energy, and other goods which it can produce for itself.

 

If we matched the Irish corporation tax rate we could add to our capacity much more quickly and collect more in total business tax revenue. If the Treasury beefed up the freedoms in the Freeports that could help us grow new industries.

 

There are some signs that the Business department does want us to produce more of our own gas at a time of global shortage. The new oil and gas fields including Jackdaw, Cambo, and Rosebank should be brought into use. That will cut our CO2 compared to importing Liquid National Gas, create more better paid jobs, and give the Treasury another tax windfall.

 

There is some work now on a domestic food strategy. We could grow so much more for ourselves at a time of Russian induced shortage. Instead of EU grants to pull the trees out of our orchards we need UK help to replant. The UK, with access to more gas, could rebuild some of its lost chemicals and fertilizer industry.

 

This cannot await a late autumn budget. Every day we send out a high tax anti-business message more investment will be delayed or diverted. All the time we continue with current policy a sharp slowdown or a complete stop to growth is inevitable. The UK deserves better and can do better. Now is the time to set out a bold strategy for freedom and growth. If we do this the voters will return. We need a new Conservative way forward.

The post John Redwood: Where have all the new Conservatives voters gone – and why? appeared first on Conservative Home.

Help hard-working people and go for more growth. The economic policy and message that Johnson needs.

23 May

Sue Gray is set to present her report this week.  Boris Johnson’s fate may hang on it.  But whether he stays or goes, the cost of living crisis will remain.  Britain faces the biggest drop in living standards since the 1950s.  And the Government seems to have no agreed plan for what it wants to do or who it wants to help.

Some MPs want benefit rises.  Others want tax cuts.  For some, axeing green levies is the priority.  For others, reductions in VAT. For others still, transferable allowances for families.  Cabinet Ministers are freelancing over a windfall tax.  This is nature abhorring a vaccum with a vengeance.

Essentially, there are two schools of thought.  To the first, the main enemy is rising prices.  Those who believe this tend to want tight monetary and fiscal policy.  To the second, it is low growth.  Those who hold it look favourably on looser monetary and looser fiscal policy, though not necessarily at the same time.

Enter a variant of the second school, as expounded by our columnist, John Redwood.  Essentially, he makes the agonising choice between more borrowing, and the higher interest rates that could come with it, and less spending or more taxes vanish – “just like that”.

This is because Treasury forecasts are consistently wrong, and the deficit came in “at £90 billion below the Office for Budget Responsibility and Treasury forecast”. It follows that Rishi Sunak could use some of that £90 billion before the autumn to help people meet the cost of living.  Which is indeed what most Conservative MPs want him to do.

If this sounds a bit too good to be true, that’s because it is – in a certain sense. Any windfall spent now is one that can’t be spent later (assuming it’s still there).  So the Chancellor would be splashing the cash this year, with the last feasible election date some eighteen months off.

And, of course, money spent now can’t be used to pay off debt. Furthermore, if Sunak goes on a spree, voters won’t be grateful: they never are.  That, after all, is a lesson of Coronavirus.  In any event, the Treasury disputes rosy inflation and interest rate forecasts – arguing that at four per cent of GDP the deficit is stubbornly high.

Nonetheless, voter need requires Sunak to present a package, whatever the party politics. With poverty for working families hitting a record high, and almost a fifth of adults having less than £100 in savings, and one in five families facing fuel poverty, the Chancellor will act before the energy price cap rises again in the autumn.

Having cleared the first hurdle (in other words, decided to present another mini-budget), Johnson, Sunak and company will face the second – namely, determining who it will most aim to help.  Here, the answer is straightforward and uncompromising: those in most need of it.

That means voters who have less room, if any, to cut back their household commitments. They would be helped by a further Council Tax cut for lower bands, extending the warm homes discount, shifting green levies from household bills, and uprating Universal Credit: remember, some 40 per cent of those who receive it are in work.

Raise moral hazard or work disincentives all you like: special help in hard times will always start from the poorest up.  Though it won’t stop there: many of those on Universal Credit, for example, are Nick Timothy’s “just about managing”.  This is a programme for Erdington as well as Easterhouse.

If that sounds discouraging for Conservative voters in Blue Fade seats, or for those clamouring for a cut in the standard rate of income tax now, I have if not exactly good news now then at least the prospect of some later – if they’re interested in the higher growth that helps to fund spending increases and tax increases in the first place.

The first bit is that boosting growth has at least as much to do with supply as demand.  That means Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has made a start in efficiencies with his plan cut civil service numbers, streamling regulation. He has an entire report by Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa Villiers and his colleague George Freeman to draw on.

Its menu covers everything from risk margins in Solvency II through deploying low-carbon technologies on to the National Grid and repealing the EU Clinical Trials Directive to scrapping the Port Services Regulation 2019 to remove
unnecessary, EU-derived regulatory burdens on UK ports.

The biggest supply-side issue of all is housing – the shortage of which harms family life, slows labour mobility and lowers wages.  Michael Gove is tasked with squaring the circle of winning local consent, raising home ownership – and building more houses.  Then there are Sunak’s own productivity-boosting plans.

The second slice of better news is that the Chancellor may be able to persuade the markets that more borrowing and tax cuts should bear no interest rate penalty (whatever is done with a Windfall Tax).  The condition is that these are clearly focused on boosting growth rather than consumption.

On spending, that would imply more for infrastructure, especially in provincial England, for science and technology, and for skills – for example, the rebalancing between academic and vocational courses that the Government wants to see.  On tax, that would suggest cuts for business and workers.

Some of those cuts, if there is enough of that £90 billion left to draw on, could simply be cancelling increases – including the Health and Social Care Levy and, if Sunak can find no convincing replacement for the “super-deduction”, scrapping the Corporation Tax rise.

Rob Colvile wrote yesterday about the negative signal that the rise sends to business and, as so often, the message is almost as important as the detail (such as the rate at which the tax will take the most revenue).  This takes us to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

Sunak is able to detail a mass of spending to which he is already committed.  What he and Johnson have not yet done is roll these up into a package and a message.  Remember George Osborne “not balancing the budget on the backs of the poor”?  His “long-term economic plan”?  “We’re all in this together”?

Johnson and Sunak need a message.  Voters will roll up their sleeves and stick it out if they think the Government has a plan for the country, as they did after 1979 and 2010. My starting bid is: “we are helping hard-working people and going for bigger growth”.

I appreciate that many voters don’t know what growth is, and that my draft needs rather a lot of work.  But at least it’s a start.  What alternative is there?  Ministers could sit on their hands and do nothing this year.  Or seek to please the right-wing entertainment industry with performative tax cuts.

Sunak tried a bit of that in his Spring Statement – and look where it got him.  Mention of Sunak leaves me with a riddle.  The non-dom row has sapped his authority.  A Government needs its Chancellor to command fear.  Sunak may do so once again one day, and revive his status as a potential Conservative leader, but at present he doesn’t.

The puzzle is that, on the one hand, Johnson wants a big animal at the Treasury, to deliver for the Government. And that, on the other, he doesn’t, since such a creature would be a threat to him.  I leave this conundrum for our readers to solve.

Redwood to co-ordinate the work of the new backbench policy committees

8 Mar

A former head of the Downing Street Policy Unit is to take charge of co-ordinating the work of the new 1922 Committee Policy Committees.

Namely…John Redwood.  Cue a sharp intake of breath at the Treasury, and perhaps in Number Ten too.

The senior Brexiteer is no less a one man think tank than ever, as his daily blog never ceases to remind its readers.  Plus his fortnightly Monday column for ConservativeHome.

Yesterday’s gave a flavour of his thinking on national security and economic expansion, just as his long campaign for more North Sea oil and gas is bearing fruit, if what we read of developing Government policy is correct.

Redwood won’t for a moment be telling the new policy committees what to think, but he has the brains and energy to move any slackers among them along.

As I say, the Treasury will be watching this appointment apprehensively.  “The UK economy is currently being run on the Maastricht rules as if we had not left the EU.” Redwood wrote on this site recently.

Guido recently published the full list of the new committees.  There hasn’t been one shadowing each Government department since the distant days of the 1990s.

The project is part of Downing Street’s new rapprochment with the Parliamentary Party.

So we will see in due course what Andrew Griffith, the recently appointed Head of the Policy Unit, makes of the committees, and vice-versa.  Here’s a link to his recent ConHome piece.

The ten Conservative MPs who voted against the Health and Social Care Levy Bill at Third Reading

15 Sep
  • Baron, John
  • Chope, Christopher
  • Davies, Philip
  • Davison, Dehenna [pictured]
  • Drax, Richard

 

  • Everitt, Ben
  • Fysh, Marcus
  • Mackinlay, Craig
  • McVey, Esther
  • Redwood, John

There were 44 Conservative abstentions – which is in the same territory as last week’s vote on the same issue.  However, the usual cautionary note applies: though some Tory backbenchers will have refused to support the Bill, others will be abroad, ill, or absent for other reasons.

The five Conservative MPs who voted against the Health and Social Care levy

8 Sep
  • Chope, Christopher.
  • Davies, Philip.
  • Hudson, Neil [pictured]
  • McVey, Esther.
  • Redwood, John.

That looks like a very small rebellion indeed, and a crushing triumph for Boris Johnson.

However, the Government won the vote by 319 to 248.  Tom Newton-Dunn tweeted earlier that a maximum of 46 Conservative MPs therefore didn’t vote with the Government.

Which means that 39 Tory backbenchers abstained.

We don’t tend to list abstentions, because it’s impossible to differentiate quickly between those who deliberately abstain and those who are simply absent: ill, abroad, in their constituency, dealing with a family crisis, whatever.

All the same, that’s a lot of abstentions – enough were they votes against to overturn the Government’s 83 majority.

The vote must thus be read as a warning shot across the Prime Minister’s bows about tax rises or, as we put it here, that the cat of Tory tax rises has fewer than nine lives to lose.

Andrew Rosindell: How close we came to waking up in the backstop

8 Jan

Andrew Rosindell is the MP for Romford.

How close we came to waking up on January 1 trapped in the backstop. That misery would have been quickly overtaken by the new national lockdown announced on Monday night. But this would in no way have diminished in the longer-term the ramifications of being trapped in a customs union with no way out.

To the true Brexiteers, the sensible outcome to the Brexit process was always a Canada-style free trade agreement which took back control of our laws, money, borders and waters, while still allowing both the UK and the EU to trade together as equal partners on mutually-beneficial terms.

Unfortunately the EU spent the next few years in a desperate and arrogant attempt to punish our nation for the Brexit vote. It tried to trap our nation in a customs union, demanded tens of billions in exit fees, demanded a continuing role for its courts in UK affairs and made blood-curdling threats of economic punishment.

In a way it showed self-awareness. Because it is only with threats and traps – much in the fashion of the Chinese Communist regime (with whom the EU is now engaging in a nauseating romance) – does EU membership become preferable to the freedom of being a sovereign, independent nation.

All told, the EU generally appeared aghast at the affirmations by the British people of their democratic right to decide their future. To me this demonstrated that the only way out was a completely clean break: to walk away, for good if necessary.

It is why I and my Spartan colleagues voted on three separate occasions against Theresa May’s Brexit deal. If we hadn’t held out against the pleas of our colleagues, from both the Remain and Brexit wings of the party, then we would have woken up on New Year’s Day trapped in the backstop. What should have been a moment of restored sovereignty would simply be a new future paralysed by the EU’s protectionist trading bloc.

The Prime Minister voted for that deal, at the third attempt. I believe he feared for Brexit if the deal wasn’t passed. Fortunately for him, the Spartans gave Brexit a chance. And once Boris was at the reigns he was always ready to walk away. He realised no deal really is better than a bad deal.

With this strategy he was able to bring before the House of Commons an agreement which facilitates free trade with zero quotas and tariffs, without the UK being part of the Single Market or Customs Union and with no control over us by the European Court of Justice.

It will give us the freedom to chart our own course. It will mean the establishment of freeports and new enterprise zones to turbocharge the regions. It means we can change our VAT policy, for example on home insulation products as my friend and colleague John Redwood has noted.

It means we can revitalise nationally important industries with targeted support, such as shipbuilding. It means we can sign free trade deals with our closest friends and allies in the Commonwealth, and improve economic ties with some of the fastest growing economies.

Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade, has already negotiated trade deals with 61 countries, including one deal, the UK-Japan FTA which goes beyond the existing EU-Japan agreement, particularly on data and digital matters. The backstop would have precluded much of this.

The new agreement with the EU is not perfect. There are flaws in the deal. The transition period for fisheries is too long, the Northern Ireland protocol threatens to divide our country and I am nervous of the separate deal on Gibraltar, given Spain’s record.

Finally, I was disappointed that our British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies did not seem to be fully included. I also share David Davis’s comments on this website, where he highlights how far ahead of the EU we are in many areas of regulation, particularly animal welfare, but also on energy and labour law. Any arbitration panel which rules on deviations from the “level playing field” must recognise that there is no “level playing field” at present. It is the EU undercutting the UK in many ways.

There are problems, then. However, I and my colleagues have come to the conclusion that this is still a good agreement: it restores our sovereignty, avoids temporary disruption of ‘no deal’ and avoids the acrimony which would define UK-EU relations going forward if no agreement had been reached.

There is nothing in the agreement which compromises our sovereignty in the manner of the backstop. Yet where there are flaws, there are fights still to be had. I have demonstrated that I am ready for these battles, as have my fellow Spartans.

For now, let’s celebrate the restoration of sovereignty to these islands and move onto the next challenge: getting the country vaccinated, lifting these Covid-19 restrictions, and revving up the UK economy for a new, better, more prosperous and, I hope, a more united decade.

The biggest decision has already been taken. We have left the EU. So let’s treat whatever comes next as an opportunity.

14 Dec

The EU is right.  If in future it changes its social laws and we don’t change ours; and if then it slaps tariffs on our exports, and raises non-tariff barriers too, this in no way lessens our sovereignty.  We do what we like.  The EU does what it likes.  Brexit is uncompromised.

Having cleared that up, on to present obscurities.  The texts of a possible treaty, which some claim is “95 per cent done”, haven’t been made public.

So few outside the negotiating room, and certainly neither this site nor its readers, are able to pronounce authoritatively on exactly who or what is preventing agreement – assuming that disagreement is real, a supposition we’re inclined to make – or why.  Or whether a deal will have been agreed by December 31, the real deadline.

Nonetheless, the general contours of the difference between the two sides of the table in this negotiation seem clear enough.

As far as can be seen, both accept a level playing field based on “non-regression” – in other words, that neither party should lower the social standard, as it were, that existed within both the UK and the EU on the day that Brexit took place.

But what happens if either side in future wish to raise that standard?  The EU wants “dynamic alignment”.  The UK does not.  And they disagree on whether the non-binding Political Declaration includes commitments to it.

The EU reportedly wanted arbitration in the event of either the UK or the EU raising its social standard in future.  It seems that the UK resisted this particular arbitration proposal, though other reports suggest that the Government is not opposed to arbitration per se – and indeed that a potential solution may now be taking shape.

At any rate, it is agreed that the EU then went further – proposing that it be entitled to respond unilaterally if it raised its own standard and the UK didn’t follow.  It is this change in approach that plunged the talks into their recent crisis, which has not been resolved as we write.

Did Emmanuel Macron raise the stakes, mindful of his own domestic elections – and convinced that the UK would crack under pressure?  Was Angela Merkel actually the key mover?

Was it the Government’s declared intention to break international law that made the difference, inflaming EU fears of the unpredictability and waywardness of Boris Johnson?  (And if so, why – given that the EU itself is, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has pointed out, a “serial abuser of international law”?)

Such are the most convincing explanations we have of how we got where we are on the crucial issue of a level playing field – leaving the other main ones: state aid and fishing policy.

Fear on both sides is clearly a key factor.  The EU sees itself as offering the UK unique quota-free, tariff free access to its Single Market, and worries that we will get the best of both worlds – privileged access and lower standards.

As Catherine Barnard pointed out on this site last week, this reflects a curious lack of confidence in the coherence and power of the Single Market.

Meanwhile, the UK would say in response that such an arrangement suits the EU just fine, since it runs a trade surplus with us, and is offering nothing on services.  And that the EU seems set on using its economic muscle to pressure us into becoming an imperial outpost rather than Global Britain.

This, by the way, suggests a point that runs in the opposite direction to Barnard’s.  If the UK is confident in its own trading future, why not simply take the hit from any EU reprisal measures, and use our new freedoms as we think fit?

Our answer is that the Government should not, repeat not, settle for accepting a proposal that is manifestly unfair – in other words, one that would give the EU the right first to change its social laws and then, were we not to follow suit, to decide for itself both the width, speed and depth of retaliatory measures.

Such would be the classic bad deal – and, as Theresa May’s original formulation rightly has it, No Deal is better than a bad deal. But we don’t suggest for a moment that the consequences would be an easy ride.

In the long-term, what shapes a country’s economic future is its tax system, its spending control, its regulatory framework, the quality of its workforce, its education system, its capacity for innovation, its openness to investment, its relationship between labour and capital – and so on.  Not tariff and non-tariff barriers.

In the short-term, we are not so sanguine about the consequences of disentangling the UK, in the event of No Deal, from an EU with which it has been merged for the best part of 50 years.

In other words, No Deal would present the likelihood of short-term pain (the interplay with Covid; shortages; lower investment; scraps over fishing; damaged co-operation on crime and terrorism) against that of long-term gain, if we get our economic framework right.

Nonetheless, No Deal also has the potential to cut both ways, as John Redwood suggests on this site this morning.  For example, a fall in the pound could more than make up for the effect of tariffs.

Much will depend, if it happens, on how agile Rishi Sunak and Alok Sharma are response.  Meanwhile, No Deal would hit our EU neighbours hard, too.  In particular, it would be a political and diplomatic defeat for Ireland, in the wake of its win in the Withdrawal Agreement over the land border.

In the first few days after No Deal, the Cabinet would rally round the Prime Minister; so would Conservative MPs; so, beyond a doubt, would ConHome’s panel of Party members.

The EU and, in particular, France would be blamed by the Tory press and many voters.  The effects wouldn’t simply spill over into fishing and the North Sea.  Potentially, they would menace the security co-operation of the only two substantial military powers in western Europe.

We are less sure of what would happen in week eleven than week one.  We would put money on the response of Tory members hardening, together with that of some Conservative MPs.

However, we wouldn’t slap down a bet on all the Cabinet behaving in the same way.  The institutional interests of the Treasury and BEIS are against No Deal.  Michael Gove will be exposed if it happens, as the Cabinet Minister responsible for the UK’s response.

Our sense it that there would soon be stories of splits between Cabinet “hawks” and “doves”.  And Tory MPs, many of unfamiliar with normal Parliamentary proceedings and unprepared for unpopular decisions – how would they respond?

That would ultimately depend on their constituents, the British people – and the clash between what David Goodhart has called the Anywheres, gainers from globalisation who identify with similar gainers abroad, and the Somewheres, who are less mobile, more rooted and have a stronger sense of national identity.

One point is certain. We have decided to quit the EU twice over.  First in the 2016 referendum.  Then in the election of almost a year ago.

So in the event of No Deal, there will be no going back.  No political party or movement of any significance is suggesting rejoining the EU (which would now take place on less favourable terms than before.)  Which means that the best way of dealing with No Deal, if it has to happen, is to treat it less as a problem than as an opportunity.

The forty-two Conservative MPs who voted against the Government on the 10pm curfew

13 Oct
  • Ahmad Khan, Imran
  • Amess, David
  • Baker, Steve
  • Baldwin, Harriett
  • Blackman, Bob

 

  • Blunt, Crispin
  • Bone, Peter
  • Brady, Graham
  • Chope, Christopher
  • Clifton-Brown, Sir Geoffrey

 

  • Daly, James
  • Davies, Philip
  • Davis, David
  • Davison, Dehenna
  • Doyle-Price, Jackie

 

  • Drax, Richard
  • Fysh, Marcus
  • Ghani, Nusrat
  • Green, Chris (pictured)
  • Hunt, Tom

 

  • Latham, Mrs Pauline
  • Loder, Chris
  • Loughton, Tim
  • Mangnall, Anthony
  • McCartney, Karl

 

  • McVey, Esther
  • Merriman, Huw
  • Morris, Anne Marie
  • Redwood, rh John
  • Rosindell, Andrew

 

  • Sambrook, Gary
  • Seely, Bob
  • Smith, Henry
  • Swayne, rh Sir Desmond
  • Syms, Sir Robert

 

  • Thomas, Derek
  • Tracey, Craig
  • Vickers, Matt
  • Wakeford, Christian
  • Walker, Sir Charles

 

  • Watling, Giles
  • Wragg, William

Plus two tellers – Philip Hollobone and Craig Mackinlay.

– – –

  • Seven Tory MPs voted against the Government on renewing the Coronavirus Act.
  • Twelve voted against the Government over the rule of six.
  • Now we have 42 this evening – enough to imperil the Government’s majority in the event of all opposition parties that attend Westminster voting against it too.
  • Fifty-six signed the Brady amendment, but it was never voted on, and wasn’t a measure related directly to Government policy on the virus.
  • We wrote last week that Conservative backbench protests would gain “volume and velocity”, and so it is proving.
  • There’s a strong though not total overlap between these lockdown sceptics and Eurosceptics.
  • We count eight members from the 2019 intake – and a big tranche from pre-2010 intakes.
  • Chris Green resigned as a PPS to vote against the measure.
  • He’s a Bolton MP and there’s clearly unhappiness there about these latest restrictions.

Javid is Chancellor. Tugendhat, Foreign Secretary. May, Home Secretary. Introducing the Alternative Cabinet.

2 Sep

The Cabinet is widely and correctly dismissed as weak.  So we’ve had a go at assembling a stronger one.  Here is the result.

Our only rule is that no Commons member of the present Cabinet can be listed in this imaginary one. Some of those named below are very familiar to this site’s editors.  Others we don’t really know, and one or two we’ve never met.

The aim of the exercise isn’t to suggest that the entire Cabinet should be swept away, and this one appointed.  Nor that all the alternatives to the present incumbents are better.

None the less, We think that, person for person, this is a better and certainly a more experienced mix of potential Ministers – all of whom are waiting in the wings either in government or on the backbenches,

– – – – – – – – – –

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Sajid Javid

Javid never got a chance to deliver a Budget.  In our imaginary scheme, he would.  His economic instincts are dry, pro-current spending control, lower business taxes, and more infrastructure investment

Foreign Secretary

Tom Tugendhat

Undoubtedly a gamble, since he’s never held Ministerial office, but the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chairman and former soldier is one of the country’s leading foreign affairs thinkers.

Home Secretary

Theresa May

Whatever you think of her period as Prime Minister, May gripped a department that famously is “not fit for purpose” and, with some of her Tory colleagues campaigning against her, worked to keep net migration down.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office

John Redwood

He is more than capable, as his blog confirms, of thinking creatively about policy, the civil service and delivery – as one would expect from the most effective Tory head that the Downing Street Policy Unit has ever had,

Defence Secretary

Penny Mordaunt

Steeped in defence through family background and her Portsmouth constituency, Mordaunt had less than three months to prove herself in this post.  There’s a case for her having more.

Justice Secretary

Geoffrey Cox

Cox is a Queen’s Council as well as a convinced Brexiteer, and would bring heavyweight credentials to dealing with the judiciary, prisons, human rights and judicial review.

Business Secretary

Greg Clark

Clark is the sole former Cabinet Minister left in the Commons who lost the whip over Brexit, and under this plan would return to his old department.

Trade Secretary

Liam Fox

If Boris Johnson thinks Fox is capable of running the World Trade Organisation, he must surely believe that he could make a success of running his former department again.

Education Secretary

Robert Halfon

Our columnist is now Chair of the Education Select Committee, is a former Minister in the department, and has a populist, work-orientated passion for the subject.

Health Secretary

Jeremy Hunt

The appointment would be risky, because Hunt is bound to be caught up in the Coronavirus inquiry, but he has consistently been ahead of the game on social distancing plus test and trace.

Work and Pensions Secretary

Iain Duncan Smith

Universal Credit has been a quiet success story of Covid-19, and Duncan Smith has the seniority and experience to take it to the next level, given its indispensability as unemployment soars.

Housing, Communites and Local Government Secretary

Kit Malthouse

Former local councillor, London Assembly member, Deputy Mayor to Boris Johnson in London, Minister of State for Housing and Planning – and so well-qualified for the post.

Environment Secretary

Owen Paterson

Paterson knows almost everything about the brief, having held it under David Cameron, and as a convinced Leaver would have plenty of ideas for the future of farming post-Brexit.

Transport Secretary

Jesse Norman

Would be a promotion for a Minister who’s worked in the department before, and did a committed job there as Roads Minister.

Culture Secretary

Tracey Crouch

Knows everything there is to know about sport, and would be a popular appointment, were she willing to take the post on.

Scottish Secretary

Andrew Bowie

Young, personable, and seen as close to Ruth Davidson, which would help with a row about a second Scottish independence referendum coming down the tracks. A calculated gamble from a limited field.

Welsh Secretary

Stephen Crabb

Senior, thoughtful, knows the brief from first hand, will be across the internal Party debate in Wales about the future of devolution.

Northern Ireland Secretary

James Cleverly

Successful on conventional and social media as a Party Chairman, a strong communicator, and now gaining diplomatic experience at the Foreign Office – Northern Ireland would represent a natural transfer.

Party Chairman

Kemi Badenoch

Right-wing, and not afraid of thinking for herself on culture issues – as she has shown as a Minister in sweeping up in the Commons on race, justice and Black Lives Matter.  Would make a strong spokesman.

Leader of the Lords

Natalie Evans

The Lords leader is the exception to our rule, on the ground that the Government’s problem with top Ministers is focused in the Commons, not the Lords – where what’s needed is wider reform.

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Entitled to attend

Leader of the House

Andrea Leadsom

Leadsom was an excellent Leader of the House, standing up to bullying John Bercow, and well up to dealing with the knotty complex of bullying/harrassment issues.  No reason for her not to come back.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Steve Baker

Adventurous choice – but, contrary to the fashionable noise about tax rises, what’s really needed is a proper zero-based review of public spending, a task to which Baker would commit himself zealously.

Attorney-General

Lucy Frazer

This QC consider herself unlucky to miss out last time round, and if there has to be a change in post she would slide in seamlessly.

Chief Whip

Graham Brady

The long-standing Chairman of the 1922 Committee Executive knows the Parliamentary Party as well as, if not better, than anyone, and would be perfect for the post were he willing to take it.

Iain Dale: How many Cabinet members would your fantasy Cabinet. I count five. And it gets worse.

20 Aug

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to defend what’s happened over the last week or ten days with exam results.

Clustershambles doesn’t really cover it. And the trouble is that it has affected a huge number of people, not just the students and teachers concerned, but their parents and grandparents too.

Add them up, and we’re talking several million people, I imagine. Like the Dominic Cummings’ Barnard Castle trip, it’s had cut-through.

The latest YouGov poll, out on Wednesday should a four point dip in the Tory ratings to 40 per cent. While that is still a two point lead, it’s not difficult to imagine that next week Labour could be ahead for the first time in, well, many years.

Optimists might point out that we are three and a half years away from a general election and that time is a great healer. Maybe, but once a Government gets a reputation for crass incompetence it is very difficult to shake off.

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It was reported by The Independent (yes, it still exists online) that Gavin Williamson offered his resignation on Monday, but that it was rejected by the Prime Minister. Only they know the truth of this, but it certainly hasn’t been denied by the beleaguered Education Secretary.

If he did indeed do the honourable thing, all credit to him. But surely if you resign, you, er, resign. It’s all very well for the Prime Minister to have said (if he in fact did), well, you got us into this, you get us out, but in the end once a politician loses the confidence of his or her client groups, it’s very difficult to get things back on an even keel.

Your Cabinet colleagues look at you as a dead man walking. Your enemies can’t wait until your inevitable denouement, and your “friends” melt away at the first whiff of grapeshot. If you’re going to survive, you don’t have long to plan how to do it. In Williamson’s case, he has until Christmas, given that I am led to understand that the reshuffle is now planned for January.

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The trouble with this Cabinet is that it has a distinctly second-rate feel about it. How many of them would make it into a Thatcher or Major cabinet. Very few, I would venture to suggest.

I interviewed Alastair Campbell on Wednesday (it will be on the Iain Dale All Talk podcast next Wednesday), and he reckoned that most of the current crew wouldn’t have even made it to Minister of State in Mrs T’s day.

Do it yourself. Go through the whole cabinet, and think how many of them would make your own fantasy cabinet. I just did so and came up with a total of five. Lamentable.

But it gets worse. Look down the list of Ministers of State – the ministers who would normally be next in line for the cabinet. I count five that are cabinet material. This is a dire state of affairs.

But it gets even worse. Normally you have a range of former ministers who you could think about bringing back to add a bit of weight and gravitas. Trouble is, most of them left Parliament at the last election. Looking at the greybeards on the Tory benches with cabinet experience you have Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, John Redwood, Maria Miller, Greg Clark, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Cheryl Gillan, Chris Grayling, Damian Green, Mark Harper, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Theresa May, Esther McVey, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Paterson and Theresa Villiers.

Now, how many of those could realistically be restored to cabinet status to bring something extra in terms of political weight, gravitas or character? I’ll leave that to your impeccable judgement.

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So far this year, I haven’t taken any holiday at all. However, next week I’m on holiday in Norfolk – apart from the fact that I’ll be writing this column, doing several podcasts and appearing on Any Questions.

I realised last week that I’ve lost the art of doing nothing. If I’m watching TV, I’ve got my laptop open and I will be flicking through Twitter or something.

Next week, I’m going to try to do some reading, and I mean reading for pleasure – not reading something because I have to for my job. Talking of which I have just done an hour-long interview for my Iain Dale Book Club podcast with Danny Finkelstein. He’s just published a book of his collected columns. What a truly fascinating man he is. The podcast will be released on Friday 4 September.